Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tribute to Doreen Faure

When I was diagnosed with psoriasis many years ago, I had no idea what it was. I had to ask the dermatologist to spell it to me so that I could write it down to research later in an encyclopedia. There was no Internet, so I couldn't Google the word and receive instantaneous information, research was much more time-consuming than it is now.

By happy timing, there was a program on South African national TV a few months later that was to change my experience completely. It was mainly an interview with a fine lady named Doreen Faure, intended to spread information about psoriasis, where to go for support and treatments that were available. Doreen was Secretary of the Cape Psoriasis Association, a regional body that was affiliated with the South African Psoriasis Association. She had psoriasis herself, was the mainstay of the Cape Psoriasis Association and was trying to educate South Africa about the condition.

I contacted Doreen and attended the next public meeting. I learned a lot and was able to meet others with the same skin condition as me. I attended almost every public meeting, where I was able to swap success and failure stories with other members. A year later I was coaxed onto the committee and very soon learned just how much work Doreen did on behalf of others with psoriasis.

She worked tirelessly to educate others, communicate with health authorities in SA and psoriasis authorities internationally and to organise public meetings. Among a host of other things she also gave support to those with psoriasis with information, transport to/from meetings, dealing with non-supportive family and colleagues and any other problems that they might have had. We on the committee threw in ideas and helped where we could in our busy employed lives but Doreen was the one who did the bulk of the work. She did it all with a smile and with intense compassion for the sometimes overwhelming problems that others were having.

The following year the Chairman, Tiny Jones, needed to step down due to business pressures and Doreen convinced me that I should make myself available for the position. I became the figurehead standing up front and running the public meetings but Doreen was the force behind me and the others on the committee that made it possible.

Due to Doreen's endless work, the Cape Psoriasis Association was the most active psoriasis body in South Africa. Under Doreen's guidance, it later absorbed the almost dormant South African Psoriasis Association and took on that name, with the national body moving from Pretoria to Cape Town.

For me personally, Doreen changed my life. She helped me to define and get my psoriasis under control. More importantly, she talked me into the Chairman position and that released me from my absolute dread of public speaking. After that all sorts of opportunities opened up for me in my business and sporting life, enhancing my stature in both and improving my future. I am very grateful to Doreen for her role in cutting open my cocoon and yanking me out of my little comfort zone.

Doreen Faure affected the lives of so many people, all in a positive way. Anyone with a problem related to psoriasis could contact her and she would help them in whatever way she could. Eventually Doreen moved to a retirement home and stopped driving, so was no longer able to be as actively involved. She passed on a few years ago, I believe from a heart attack. She had made helping those with psoriasis her life's work and she did a wonderful job of it. Doreen's leagacy is the South African Psoriasis Association and they continue her work.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More on Inflammation

This post is, to some extant, a continuation of my last post, with definite links to what I said last month.

Since I wrote that entry I have been away on business, driving long distances and staying in hotels. That always leads to me getting out of my normal habits of home-prepared healthy meals that contain lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, prepared in a healthy way. Quick stops at fast food joints along the road, many sugary sodas consumed to keep me awake while driving and rushed meals ahead of or between convention sessions became my diet. Of course, it didn't take long for all this junk food to proceed from my lips to my skin, emerging as expanding red patches.

Back home again and back onto my healthy diet, my skin is rapidly coming back to its normal condition, with minimal evidence of psoriasis. Remember what I said last month, this is all due to inflammation within my body, a reaction of my immune system to what I was consuming. If I put bad fuel into my engine it shows up as deterioration in the state of that engine.

I referred last month to research that showed up inflammation in the bodies of test subjects who had psoriasis, inflammation that resulted in diseases in various organs of the body other than the skin. Today I have read in Daily Health News of other research that has linked psoriasis to another worrying condition, one which is very prevalent in USA and is spreading rapidly in all countries that have adopted an American style diet. That condition is type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is not the type that one might be born with, it is the acquired version of the disease and is mostly as a result of bad eating habits, habits that lead to obesity and ultimately diabetes. The research has found that people with psoriasis are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes than the general population, whether or not they are obese. They found that people with mild psoriasis had a small (11%) increase in risk of diabetes, which increases to 46% with moderate to severe psoriasis. This is a considerable increase in risk and good reason to keep your psoriasis symptoms to as low a level as possible. This is thought to be because the inflammation in a person with psoriasis interferes with the proper reaction to insulin in the body, which triggers type 2 diabetes.

The upshot of this new finding is that it highlights even more the need for us psoriatics to control very carefully what we put into our bodies. We have to always keep in mind the potential harm that we are doing to ourselves in the longer term. If you have psoriasis and don't want to end up with the compounding problems that diabetes will bring with it, please get your diet under control right away.

The article in Daily Health News also recommends that we have our blood sugar levels checked as part of our regular medical check-ups, as an early-warning sign of impending problems. It also recommends exercising regularly and losing excess weight.

I ma an active person, I eat healthy and I am the same low weight now as I was 40 years ago. I am working hard to minimise the effects of psoriasis and hope that these efforts will be successful. However, knowledge of this research will keep me even more vigilant to keep my diet on the healthy side of normal.